Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Indian Summers

TV Preview: Indian Summers | TV1, 8.30 Sunday


By Doug Coutts

Even though there’s an ensemble cast (and, since it’s India, an ensemble of castes), it’s unbearably hot and the streets are a clamour of colour and seething humanity, Indian Summers is not a ’30s version of The Best Most Exotic Floribund Hotel or whatever it was called.

There are similarities – a bunch of dim-witted Poms lording it over the locals while complaining about the heat – but Indian Summers has a bit more going on.

There’s a terrorist on a train, a couple of sitar-crossed lovers, a poisoned urchin without a name and a pretend cholera epidemic aimed at keeping the natives under control – and that’s in the first 20 minutes.

The publicity suggests that it’s “an epic drama set in the summer of 1932 where India dreams of independence, but the British are clinging to power.” They’re not clinging to power all that well, on account of the sweaty hands making it hard to get a grip.

Intrigue – political, social, undergarmential – is the driver here, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself questioning everyone’s motives, even though it might not be entirely clear if they have one or it’s just the sun getting in the eyes.

The English have never been particularly adept at taking over other people’s countries and maintaining them as a going concern for long – America, Africa, India and Scotland to name a few – but they do at least provide the basis of a good yarn, in this case a very colourful one.

What other critics said:

“This was no guilt trip from C4, which is too sharp to make its most expensive period drama yet a pith-poor sobfest of pointless hindsight, of hair shirts and noble savages. Instead, it’s had the grace to go for slow-burn. We see, as with fresh eyes, the myriad kingfisher-colours of India, but see too the many dirty religious madnesses. We see the cliches of the late Raj, the tremendously silly but violent flaps over dated flapper dresses, the mustachioed plotting, but all done with high credibility.” — The Guardian.

Indian Summers is not just a sumptuous period drama, it’s a gripping and unpredictable thriller. Creator Paul Rutman is keeping his viewers attention with a tightly written script that is full of detail and moves at just the right pace. It really is the antidote for any Downton-related frustration.” — The Independent.

Indian Summers wanted to be a drama of subtle details, where the narrative unfurls as slowly as a rhododendron blossom. That technique demands great depth and meaning beneath every trivial gesture. This episode, the first in a ten-part series about the last days of the Raj, wasn’t shallow — it was something worse. It was fake.” — Daily Mail.

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at: Weakly Whirled News.
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